#AprilTTRPGMaker: Questions 19 through 24

Part 4 of Kira Magrann’s cool challenge for April, the 30-day tabletop role-playing game maker or #AprilTTRPGMaker challenge.

Day 19: Game that’s most essential to your design?

Fate Core CoverThese days it would be Fate Core, since a lot of the projects I’m writing for are Fate games: Fate Infiltration Toolkit, Tianxia Rules Companion, Uprising: The Dystopian Universe RPG. I’ve also got a small item for Monster of the Week

Day 20: Favourite design tools?

Conceptual tools:

  • Do-it-yourself (DIY) abilities, like in Over The Edge, Unknown ArmiesHeroquestTruth & Justice, or like aspects in Fate;
  • Characteristics that can be used both as benefits and as negatives, like the backgrounds in 7th Sea, distinctions in Cortex Plus, or aspects in Fate;
  • Difficult choices, like for ties in Fate or basic successes in games Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA);
  • Range of success, like in InSpectres, octaNe, Heroquest, Fate, or PbtA games;
  • Relationships, like in Heroquest, Fate, most PbtA games, and a plethora of the hippie games I love.

Logistic tools:

  • Google Drive and Dropbox for cloud storage and collaboration;
  • Scrivener for writing;
  • GIMP and Scribus to create draft forms and conceptual illustrations;
  • Slack, Google Hangouts, Discord, Zoom, or Skype to chat or speak with collaborators;
  • Google Save and Google Keep to bookmark useful online resources or jot down notes.

Day 21: How many playtests?

As many as it takes. Generally, that means:

  • Internal “proof of concept” playtest, which can take months or years;
  • One to three rounds of open playtest, each taking five or six months to set up, conduct, and compile data for;
  • In between these, more internal playtest to get the next draft ready for open playtest;
  • A final lightning round of internal “fine-tuning” playtest to make sure this is ready for release.

Day 22: How do you document ideas?

I use notebooks and pens if I’m at the conceptual and brainstorming stage. I love fine paper and pens, and my favourites that work within budget right now are the notebooks and refillable pens from the Japanese store Muji. We have one in San Francisco, but you can also order online.

For loose notes I can access from my phone when I’m not near my computer, I use Google Keep, or if I need to do more than jot down a few bullet points, Google Docs.

Once I start a draft, notes go in my Research folder and notes in Scrivener.

Day 23: People who’ve helped you?

Most notably, the Evil Hat team; they gave me a chance at my first full book, and they assembled fantastic talent for project not only to do the intrinsic tasks of creating a game book but also to help me get familiar with the process and out of the lurch when I got stuck.

Similarly, the Vigilance Press folks have believed in me since Day One and provided tons of useful advice, bright ideas, and constructive criticism.

Conversations with my (carefully curated) social media communities have also been great sources of moral and practical help, especially on Google+ and Slack.

Day 24: Most notable achievement?

War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus was a 2016 ENnie Award nominee in four categories: Best Art, Interior; Best Family Game; Best Rules; and Product of the Year. There were a lot of great games and it was an honour to make the list.

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